JULY 9, 2001
Watch for the Japanese boys
AS Honda and Toyota both gear up for major assaults on Formula 1, Japan looks to be on the verge of producing a new generation of F1 drivers to follow in the traditions of Satoru Nakajima, Aguri Suzuki, Ukyo Katayama and others. The current generation are, however, rather different than the men who went before them as all of them have made their way through the ranks in European competition and all are winning in European Formula 3 races.
The highest profile of the new generation is 24-year-old Takuma Sato, who is dominating the British Formula 3 Championship at the wheel of a Carlin Motorsport Dallara-Mugen F301. Sato has won seven of the 16 races so far this year and his only real competition is coming from his own team mate Anthony Davidson.
Over in France there is another rising star from Japan. Ryo Fukuda is leading the French championship thanks to four wins: two at Ledenon and two at Magny-Cours in his Saulnier Racing Dallara-Renault.
In Germany too there is a Japanese rising star at the head of the national Formula 3 series. Toshihiro Kaneishi has been racing this year for Bertram Schafer's Opel Team BSR in a Dallara-Opel and in the first eight rounds of the series finish second on no fewer than four occasions to lead the series as the championship headed for its biggest event of the year at the Norisring, where the crowd numbered 100,000 people. The 22-year-old lost his lead in the series to veteran Pierre Kaffer in qualifying (as points are awarded for pole position) and on Saturday in wet conditions Kaffer was the winner. After the race however Opel Team BSR protested Kaffer because he had been racing for much of the event with a damaged undertray and the protest was upheld (but appealed). On Sunday Kaneishi won his first victory, leading home Kaffer and British youngster Gary Paffet (a sometime tester for the McLaren team) and so the championship standings remain uncertain until the outstanding appeal is heard.
It is also worth noting the progress of Kousuke Matusuura, who is currently second in the "Rookie" class of the German series, behind Markus Winkelhock.
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